Dear reader, I’m sauntering down no particular sidewalk, spotting dropped candy along the way; so far: a waterlogged package of Sugar Babies, a PEZ dispenser, fading candy on a string—hard enough to break a tooth, even after the rain. Today, graveyard decorations are being replaced with happier ones. So . . . if you were really beside me . . . I’d probably ramble your ear off with what I call my “walking thoughts,” which, in this case, have been triggered by the remains of the day—sugary confetti at my feet and real spiders, the size of a fifty-cent piece, in a web competition with the cottony fake ones still littering the bushes and trees.
Do you mind if I talk while we walk? I’d enjoy some company on this chilly fall day. This is how writers exercise and develop their writing muscles: pondering to the nth degree whatever enters the mind, unedited and uncut. It’s sort of like pushups and sit ups, really, actively avoiding the flab of an unused brain or imagination, often leaning into pain.
Halloween 2018. A sweet time for givers as well as takers. Little children, sweet babes, don’t yet comprehend how it is more blessed to give than to receive, a message that will repeat with sounding joy for the next two holidays, culminating at Christmastime with the celebration of the birth of Christ. No, it isn’t until the little lambs grow older and wiser that they learn, as we all must, that there’s only One who both gives and takes away; as that painful lesson is understood, experienced—and survived—the simple things in life become sweeter, especially the benevolent act of extending one’s hand to another. Until emotional virginity is lost, the wee ones are encouraged to live in the happy dreamland of make believe and offer the adults a choice: a trick or a treat. It’s fun. It’s innocent. It’s anything but wicked. It’s American culture. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. There they go, soft feet down the street, bags and buckets in hand, skippity-hop down a concrete sidewalk, happy door to door, pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, not killing the kitty cat.
I know, there are some who disagree, and I understand. October 31st is an evil day for many in this fallen world and horrible crimes have been committed. Child predators, kidnappers, traffickers, murderers, witches, demons, and Satan are all very real and swarm, wriggle, and writhe with extra-malevolence whenever innocence is on the march, they swoop down like birds of prey, capturing and devouring the unsuspecting. That’s why we’re told to pray. “Suffer the little children to come unto Me,” Christ taught; it’s the very first thing, straight out of the gate, draw nigh unto Him, keep them safe, physically and spiritually, now and for always.
An interesting thing, perhaps too often overlooked, is that evil always wears a mask that isn’t scary, but is luring, attractive, and seemingly trustworthy; and it’s only when the mask comes off that the true horror is revealed; for instance, a child predator as a pet owner, or a policeman, or a pastor, and Satan as an angel of light, or a pornographic and murderous computer game defiling unsuspecting darling eyes for hours on end, or a beautiful serpent whispering the ultimate lie, “Thou shalt not surely die.” Satan masked is not the same as children masked: one hides his scariness while the others hide their innocence, both pretending to be something other than what they are. If the devil presented himself as he really is, we’d all run and hide.
Anyway, did you know that “Hallow” means “holy” and “-een” means “evening,”? Holy evening. Yep, yep. Words and their origin interest me. “Our Father, who art in heaven, “Hallowed (holy) be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” A prayer for every day, recognizing God’s holiness and the war of good against evil on this planet. Our wish: heaven on earth, not hell, with every evening being a Halloween, so to speak, a holy evening, recognizing one power alone that can break a spell, eliminate a curse, rob the grave, put flesh on skeletons, and destroy the most powerful monster of all time and cast him forever into the Lake of Fire. It’s not surprising how every holiday of Christian origin is replaced with a counterfeit over time: Turkey Day instead of Thanksgiving Day, Santa Clause in the place of baby Jesus, and—worst of all—Peter Cottontail, an egg laying rabbit, over the Resurrection of Christ from the dead; we know who’s behind all that, right? Nevertheless, I’m not going to get all pinched in the mouth about it. I don’t replace deviled eggs with angel eggs. Instead, I smile at the children passing by, enjoying a harmless, happy tradition that has morphed into something not so harmful as other things . . . like cavities. Sometimes I find myself laughing on Halloween as I imagine all those huge dentist bills hiding in tiny people behind a costume: first the treat, then the trick. Furthermore, if a little boy is dressed like the devil, I won’t piss my pants over it; in fact, I applaud him for his honesty; he probably is a little devil most of the time. Just like the mother who dresses like a hag; she might really be a nasty hag most days, but at least she’s a prettier hag than most.
Look, a Tootsie Roll wrapper. I remember, one year, a lonely elderly couple, obviously with no pennies to spare, clinging to a single bag of tiny Tootsie Rolls, happily handing out only one per child; in return, they were met with frowns and verbal let downs of “that’s all?” The crinkling of that precious bag shared on the single lap of sixty married years and with maybe less-than-one remaining to live between the two of them, was a tearful treasure to me. Children are too young to understand a real treat that is genuinely sweet, forever.
Eighteen, hmm, now there’s an interesting number. A half-moon appeared on October 31, 2018, but a full moon appears on the Eve of All Hallows only every eighteen or nineteen years. Halloween 2020 will see with 20/20 vision under the bright yellow light of a one hundred percent full moon, unless it rains. Most Halloween cards are deceptive with their full-skulled circles, the man on the moon no longer smiling, empty eye-sockets, illuminating and silhouetting flying brooms.
Get this, on October 31, 2018, I was approaching my truck, the only vehicle in the parking lot at almost midnight, an old friend waiting to be started and warmed. Suddenly, a man appeared out of nowhere. He smiled through missing teeth and whispered, “Trick or treat.” His breath smelled like death and his face looked like meth. I scrounged for some change and found none, maybe three sticky pennies, an insult to anyone. I turned to the man and said, “Sorry, I haven’t any change. In fact, I only carry plastic and those are maxed out,” (and I wanted to add: because I’m a writer who can’t write). He thought I was lying and got angry. He called me something I can’t repeat here and then disappeared again into the shadows. I would’ve offered him some contraband 70 Proof Southern Comfort that I keep hidden in my truck, a liquid lullaby, a soothing anesthetic to rock the troubled mind to sleep; specifically, for nights such as that one. But he was a real jack-o-lantern.
May I share something personal? I believe in haunted houses. I believe in ghosts. That’s another reason I took this walk. I travel this path every year. Do you know that not all ghosts are cold? I held two little hands the other night, warm and invisible, a little girl on either side, who once believed in me. They’re gone now. And their little dog, too. And a red wagon with squeaky wheels carrying hot chocolate and warm blankets. Those streets, those long-gone streets, are silent as the grave. I believe, oh, I believe in a haunted heart.
A neighbor is clearing their webs, preparing for Thanksgiving. Thank you for allowing me to clear mine. See you around. Blessings on another Halloween. May every evening be holy and heavy with hopeful thoughts looking up.